Due to my never ending fascination with Christmas history, including vintage Christmas cards, I found a bunch more I have to share. These are merely a handful of cards dating to around the turn into the 20th century. There are a surprising number of very old Christmas cards, most of which are kept safe in museum collections and are digitalized for us to enjoy viewing online. The vast majority have long since lost their envelopes, so unless a postcard (which was quite common, thankfully) dating the cards, gleaning information on the artist, or knowing who sent the card and to whom can be next to impossible. Luckily, researchers into such historical topics can often decipher from the clues, such as postmarks, type of card stock or paper, style of the art, and so on.
For today I selected cards that were not just pretty or appealing to me personally, but rather ones that have a known history or unique style. For example, the card used in the featured images is from 1880 and as was somewhat typical during that time, was not overtly “Christmassy”. The three adorable little girls are dressed in normal dresses for the era and if not holding slate boards with “a merry xmas” written in chalk, nothing would hint to it being a Christmas card. As a slight aside, this card is interesting in the use of “Xmas” which many still believe to be sacrilegious. This is not true, as I wrote in a blog from 2019: The Controversial “X” in Xmas: What is the Truth?
Christmas cards are a wonderful tradition, in my opinion, that should not be allowed to fade into oblivion as is sadly happening in our digital age. Enjoy these excellent examples of Christmas cards from the past.
Proving that folks from the past had a sense of humor, even at Christmas time, this card reads:
May good luck be in store for you when least expected, – like Cinderella”
“May Christmas blessings crown thy days” 1893
Graphic design is based on an illustration of 1823 by an artist whose initials appear to be O. BS.
A fishing theme of a girl helping a boy to pull a big fish from a lake or river was perhaps because fish in Christian symbolism signified Jesus Christ.
A 1907 postcard sent to “Master Harrington” in Colorado. Art by famed American illustrator Ellen H. Clapsaddle (1865-1934) depicts Santa Claus talking to a young girl on the telephone.
Victorian Christmas Postcard 1908
This postcard was mailed a few days before Christmas in 1908. It was printed in Germany.
This Victorian Christmas card features Saint Nicholas carrying a small Christmas tree and being accompanies by a small reindeer. The reindeer has a small pack and is carrying two dolls. Saint Nicholas is dressed in turquoise blue and white, rather than red. His footwear looks a bit like a pair of gold and turquoise argyle socks to me. It is hard to read, but at the bottom of the card we are all wished “Merry Christmas” in gold lettering.
Green Santa, 1910
There’s nothing on the card itself which identifies an artist or publisher. The card dates back to at least 1910 due to the postmark and the one cent stamp that was used to send it.
Two wonderful traditions of Christmas captured on one vintage postcard. The card has a distinctive European flair as this green Santa resembles St. Nicholas with a longer coat and hood. Green Santa is carrying a pouch – perhaps to carry his naughty and nice list. There are a few toys and gifts peeking out of the bag or hanging from it.
In the background, we see into a home through a large window. A small boy is decorating the Christmas tree. Candles burn brightly on several of the branches.
“A Merry Christmas” 1912
A little boy and girl dancing under a holly bough. This postcard was never sent. The painting is from 1912 by famous American illustrator Frances Brundage (1854-1937).
“The Season’s Greetings” from 1913
Santa Claus in his red suit was still fairly new, so instead cards with flowers and children often adorned Christmas cards. Many of the cards from this time period don’t even look like Christmas cards, but this one does.
It was published by Raphael Tuck and Sons in 1913 and printed in Saxony. There were ten different cards in the original set, which was unusual for Tuck – they usually sold cards in packages of six and often the cards where not all different. They all had slightly different messages, and this is the only one which said “Season’s Greetings”.
This greeting card features a charming little girl braving a snow storm to deliver Christmas presents. Her green coat matches her umbrella nicely. She’s wearing a white hat with a big red bow that matches her dress which just peeks out of the bottom of her coat. The Season’s Greetings message is decorated with vining poinsettia leaves and flowers.